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Stretching Out: Men's NCAA Gymnastics Needs the 10.0 More Than Ever
(14 votes, average 3.79 out of 5)

If the decision to drop the Temple men's gymnastics team after the 2014 season is not overturned, men's NCAA gymnastics will comprise a not-so-sweet 16 teams. And since only a handful of those programs have the maximum 6.3 scholarships, there are large talent gaps within a very short list. The result? Too many dual meets throughout the regular season are more predictable than San Diego weather.

But since the men's coaches voted several years ago to ditch the 10.0 in favor of FIG scoring, the margins of victory have created another problem. Unlike women's NCAA gymnastics, where upsets are an interesting part of the 10.0, watered-down formula, few men's dual meets are decided by tenths of a point.

Last weekend Oklahoma defeated Air Force, 440.700-412.200. Stanford downed Bay Area Rival Cal, 435.200-426.350. Penn State topped the West Point Open by more than 10 points. The only close result was Michigan's 437.500-436.050 victory over Illinois and Ohio State (tied for second) at the Windy City Invite. Granted, the Wolverines did not have Sam Mikulak in the lineup. Host Illinois-Chicago finished sixth, 42 points behind the winner. UIC will travel to Ann Arbor to face Michigan in a dual meet in March. Can the Flames, who probably train just as long and hard as any team, improve 42 points in two months and torch the Wolverines?

Men's NCAA coaches opted for the FIG rules to help the international effort of the U.S. But that decision actually applies to an extremely small percentage of the approximate 300 competitors among the 17 college teams. Throw in the bad public relations of the weaker teams getting clobbered by the fully-funded ones, and it becomes evident that the current NCAA men's rules are serving less than half of the remaining programs. For the bottom half of the ranking list, it's like playing against your older brother; you can never win.

The theory that Olympic-caliber collegiate gymnasts such as Mikulak would suffer under a simpler system is unfounded. But it certainly would limit the wear-and-tear throughout an exhausting January-to-April season. U.S. championships are in August, the worlds in October. Is that not long enough to train a harder version of each routine?

Men's NCAA gymnastics must redefine itself through inclusivity. Illinois coach Justin Spring tried to just that last season with a match-play dual meet against Minnesota. But he had a hard time convincing many of his coaching colleagues to rally behind it. If match play is not the answer, then a return to the 10.0—and easier routines—would level the playing field.

If every team had the ability to score the occasional 10.0, meets would inherently become more competitive and interesting. Maybe spectators would see an upset. Maybe gymnasts would see fewer injuries. Maybe the Air Force A.D. would form a different opinion of the Falcon gymnastics team if it lost to the Sooners by 2.85 instead of 28.50.

It is obvious that men's NCAA gymnastics needs to retain every program it can. And one way to ensure that is to give every team a fighting chance. Simpler routines and a return to the 10.0. That's the way to go with so few teams remaining.



Comments (10)add comment

Lou Burkel said:

Retired Air Force Academy Gymnastics Coach
The FIG Code of points changes every 4 years, and the NCAA men's gymnastics coaches try to please USA Gymnastics. The NCAA women's coaches know that they have a great product and make few and minor changes. The NCAA women have a NCAA Code of Points and they like it. And their supporters like it -- close, competitive meets are the rule. The two things that most gymnastics spectators (and NCAA Directors of Athletics) understand: stuck dismounts and 10.0. And they like to see close competitions throughout the season - not only in conference and NCAA championship competitions. Men's coaches evaluate their team's performances by hits and misses. AD's by the final score. NCAA gymnastics coaches might consider more focus on pleasing their athletic directors.
January 20, 2014
Votes: +10

Mike Mayzak said:

The 5 up 5 count system helps...
The recent 5 up 5 count system does help - making the meets more about the team effort rather than the team with the top 1 or 2 prospects.

The best solution is more teams, but there hasn't been a team ADDED to the NCAA's in DECADES (that I can remember). This would expand the talent base and develop the competitive base further.

There are universities all over this country with MULTI-BILLION dollar endowments, STILL raising tuitition and dropping sports (and other programs). There are life lessons to be learned on the athletic field or in the gym as well as the classroom - don't forget, college is about the develpment of the character and mind of the student... not just to drive revenue for the business that is THE university.
January 21, 2014
Votes: +1

Jon Deaton said:

Stanford Men's Gymnast
I like my hard routines. I want to keep doing them. I don't want limits placed on me.
January 21, 2014
Votes: +4

John Scanlan said:

Water Down Men's Gymnastics?
Men’s NCAA gymnastics is an elite sport and watering it down to a high school level like the women have will not increase the popularity of the sport.

Neither will artificially tightening the scores. Football all-star game rules such as giving possession of the ball to the losing team just to make the score closer don’t make those games more popular.

Upsets is a spurious argument. Upsets in women’s NCAA gymnastics are rare. Going by the rankings, USAG reports only one upset over this past weekend. Meanwhile on the men’s side, Minnesota beat Iowa, William and Mary beat Temple, Army beat Navy, and Illinois tied Ohio State. Watering down women’s NCAA gymnastics has actually reduced the possibility of an upset. As far as it goes, gymnastics is not a sport upsets occur. We already know who’s going to win if everyone hits. Therefore, upsets are more likely when athletes take risks in an elite sport. If football teams only played one quarter, there’d be a lot more upsets, but that wouldn’t improve the sport.

Yes, Oklahoma beat Air Force by 28.5 points. OU is currently the best team in the country while Air Force is an up and comer. Under Kip Simons, Air Force has improve tremendously to get within 30 points of the number one team. Florida State football isn’t going to beat an up and coming team by just a field goal, it’s going to be a blowout. Florida State beat their opponents this year by an average of 39.5 points. Wouldn’t football be a much greater sport if they divided the scores by 10? When OU faces Michigan, you’ll get your close meet.

When it comes to teams’ survival, scores or winning differential isn’t important. Not even winning itself makes much of a difference (only being NCAA champion makes a difference). UCLA was dropped while winning championships and populating the national team. Cal was dropped (only to be brought back by private funding) while being consistently in the top five. Oregon was dropped after placing 3rd at the NCAA championship.

Temple has won the last two ECAC championships and Air Force has a streak of collegiate championships. In both cases, the teams are one of the best at their schools both athletically and academically. And they’re relatively cheap sports . . . Temple’s budget is no more than what the school’s football team spends on chin straps.

The real issue for college gymnastics is meeting Title IX requirements while keeping up with ballooning football and basketball budgets. Mike Krzyzewski at Duke made $19 million dollars last year. That equates to the budget for 27 sports, equivalent to Minnesota’s gymnastics team. Temple’s football coach earns four times the gymnastic’s team’s budget. So, cutting must occur (supposedly). Women’s Olympic sports must be maintained, so men’s teams pay the price.

The athletes certainly don’t want to be coddled. Unlike most female gymnasts, male gymnasts tend to take off during their college years. They finally put on strength and increase their difficulty by leaps and bounds. Now you’re suggesting that what the guys did in high school is good enough? They should take it easy and coast through their college careers?

Every athlete retains his hopes and dreams. To suggest that athletes just reaching their prime should give up is insulting.
January 21, 2014 | url
Votes: +7

Sam Bailie said:

Retired Athlete & Coach
I feel even at the FIG the 10.0 should be retuned. If Gymnastics is to grow it must have the support of the University Football Programs & Athletic Directors. This can only be done by showing these programs the worth of gymnastics to all athletes ... Off season gymnastics programs for football players as well as basketball. Some of the great players at Iowa were taking gymnastics. Sam Bailie
January 22, 2014
Votes: +1

male gymnast said:

I would rather be crushed by another team than see the sport limited in difficulty. The point system is not the issue, NCAA funding and participation rules is.
January 22, 2014
Votes: +4

Karl said:

Don't change it! Don't stoop.
I LOVE that NCAA Men's is more competitive and uses the FIG/USAG scoring. It rewards difficulty and execution which you get from hard work and true talent. I DESPISE the NCAA women's code and scoring. It's too easy and you can do a CRAP routine and stick it and get a 9.9 or 10.0 over a girl who did a fiercely difficult routine and hopped or stepped on the dismount. It also behooves the NCAA to keep FIG/USAG scoring because those guys are still national team members and internationally competitive at that age and some are still getting better whereas the women are on the decline in their fitness and athletic ability and haven't been competitive on the world level since they got their driver's license or if they're lucky made it to the end of their teens. DON'T CHANGE!
January 26, 2014 | url
Votes: +2

Anonymous said:

Not buying it
I think women's gymnastics is more popular because more girls are interested in gymnastics, not because of the scoring system.

This is just my opinion, but I see the women's NCAA scoring system as being so convoluted that the sport has really become banal and superficial. Teams can pretend that the score system is better because there are more spectators, but because the routines are so watered down, a lot of the scores depend more on politics and popularity. As someone who has seen a fair number of competitions, it has become clear that girls who were better as juniors are favored even when their routines have errors. So the real problem here is that the spectator is unknowledgable and doesn't know better than to believe the judges.

While this still happens in men's competitions to a certain extent, the objectivity of the scoring system is much more clear to the knowledgable observer, but spectators don't know anything about gymnastics so they can't "relate". To a large extent, spectators are only able to identify large errors, stuck dismounts, and final team scores. These (and name recognition) seem to be the only thing women's judges respond to, but they are not everything the sport is about.
January 30, 2014
Votes: +4

Mark Hobson said:

old school
I also don't believe going the route of the women's program is the right course. Major mistakes in women's college routines still result in9.8's & 9.9's but isn't there a way to incorporate the best of both worlds...I competed back in the 70's and early 80's and we had something called ROV. I wouldn't suggest everyone starting at 10 like the women..rather a routine that meets all the requirements starts at 9 or 9.2. To score any higher you have to have Risk...Originality..or Virtuosity. Like it or not the women's teams aren't having this delima and their attendance is WAY bigger at meets. Why, because the fans understand a 10 point system and are entertained. This system would allow you to reward international caliber routines and still keep the fans engaged. I competed at nationals in front of 14,000 hometown fans...Men's gymnastics can work.
March 18, 2014
Votes: +2

John Scanlan said:

We Could Use the New Code in a 10.0 System
Mark . . . I think we could combine the new and old systems. A max D score is around 7.0-7.4. And, we really just can't get higher than that.

Simply use 3.0 for the E score rather than 10.0. Once you've hit 3.0 in deductions you're out of the running anyway.

A 16.5 start value converts to a 9.5. An great performance with -1.0 in deductions would be an 8.5.
September 30, 2014 | url
Votes: +1

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